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December 2021 CLL Bloodline

In science and medicine, information is constantly changing and may become out-of-date as new data emerge. All articles and interviews are informational only, should never be considered medical advice, and should never be acted on without review with your health care team.

Over the course of a year of monthly meetings, The CLL Bloodline will teach the BASICS needed to understand CLL, bring news, help with the acronym and new vocabulary, and offer simple fun quizzes.

All the following are true about CLL/SLL except:

  1. All CLL/SLL patients, even those in complete remission or who have never been treated, are immunocompromised.
  2. Some CLL/SLL patients have lived more that 50 years with their cancer.
  3. Many CLL/SLL patients will never need treatments and will have a normal life expectancy.
  4. Nearly all who do need treatment for their CLL/SLL have a shortened life expectancy.
  5. As CLL/SLL patients are living longer, complications such as second cancers (including Richter’s Transformation) and infections are starting to cause more deaths than the CLL itself.

ANSWER: # 4 is not true. With today’s excellent targeted therapies, many CLL patients, including those who require treatment can expect to live a normal life span. All the other answers are correct.

As 2021 draws to a close we are asking for your help in supporting our efforts to continue to do everything we possibly can to save the lives of CLL patients. The resources provided by donors like you made it possible for us to pivot when COVID-19 struck with new virtual support groups and online education. This year, CLL Society (CLLS) was influential in securing our priority access to vaccines, boosters, and most recently anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies. We’ve worked behind the scenes and have been in the news. Donations of cash, cars, trucks, stocks, artwork and much more can be transformed into action to benefit our CLL community. CLL Society is invested in your long life. Please invest in the long life of the CLL Society. You can donate safely through the website. Thank you!

December 4 at 9:30 AM PST, CLLS will present a webinar on COVID-19 focusing on new antibody therapies.

December 11-14 is the ASH (American Society of Hematology) Annual Meeting, the most important hematology conference of the year. CLLS will be presenting our original research on the patient experience. Dr. Koffman will report daily on what breaking research all CLL patients should know.

Blessings for the holiday. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year.

THE BASICS: Antibodies
This is the final and maybe most advanced “lesson” in our year of CLL education through the Bloodlines. We start all over at the beginning in January.

Antibodies are blood protein produced by the B lymphocytes in response to specific antigen or protein. Antibodies attach to surface proteins that our bodies recognize as foreign, such as bacteria and viruses in the blood. When we measure our immunoglobulins (IGA, IGG, IGM), we are measuring how many antibodies we have. Vaccines work largely by inducing antibody formation to the threat.

Manmade antibodies that are cloned are called monoclonal antibodies. These are engineered to attack surface markers on cancer cells such as CD20 found on all B cells, including normal and cancerous CLL cells.

Examples are rituximab and obinutuzumab. This is a type of immunotherapy.

They can also be trained to attach to the spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19 to prevent infection or disease progression. Examples are Regen-Cov and AZD-7442.

WORD/ACRONYM OF THE MONTH: Bispecific Antibodies and Antibody-Drug Conjugates (ADCs)
A bispecific antibody is a manmade protein that can simultaneously bind two different types of protein (antigen), usually one that targets cancer cells and the other T cells, pulling them close together to facilitate killing of the cancer. Antibody-Drug Conjugate or ADC is built by attaching a toxic anticancer drug or payload to an antibody that attaches to cancer cells, so that the toxic payload is delivered directly to the cancer cells. Both are still experimental in CLL/SLL.